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Local council grants almost £1m to GP surgery to upgrade premises

An East London GP surgery run by the Hurley Group super-practice has been granted almost £1m by the local council to increase its capacity amid a rapidly growing population.

The Island Medical Centre in Tower Hamlets will receive £985,839 to refurbish the surgery, adding four clinical rooms and capacity for up to 28,000 new patient appointments every year.

The expansion of the premises, which is expected to be finished by 2020, will mean an additional 5,472 patients are able to register with the practice by 2022/23. This will add to the surgery’s current registered list of 7,629 patients.

The Hurley Group serves over 100,000 patients in total and is run by four partners including former NHS England primary care director Dr Arvind Madan and former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada.

The funding for Island Medical Centre, approved by Tower Hamlets Council last month, has come from contributions made by property developers as a condition of large planning applications, known as section 106 money. The cash can be used to fund improvements to infrastructure, public services and other projects across the borough, including general practice.

The council said it was a ‘key priority’ to invest in GP services through improved premises and greater capacity, as rapid population growth has placed ‘inevitable strain’ on healthcare provision.

Tower Hamlets has one of the fastest growing populations in the country, with residents expected to total nearly 315,000 by 2020 – an increase of almost 20,000 since 2015.

The Hurley Group’s chief executive officer, Rylla Baker, highlighted the importance of using section 106 money for improving access to health services.

‘Two years ago we submitted a business case to the CCG because the list size was increasing rapidly (and still is) and there was an option to increase the size of the surgery.

‘One of the key uses of section 106 funding is meant to be for improving or creating access for patients to health services and in this case it is being used for this purpose, which is good news,’ said Ms Baker. She noted the Hurley Group does not own the building and has ‘no financial interest’ in the premises.

Dr Elliott Singer, medical director for North East London LMC and a GP in Chingford, said the move was a ‘step in the right direction’.

He added: ‘However, Tower Hamlets has many other GP practices struggling with outdated and under-maintained premises, it would be good for practice staff and patients across the borough to see further investment directed to these surgeries.’

Dr Somen Banerjee, director of public health at Tower Hamlets Council, said: ‘We have been working in partnership with the NHS to identify where we need to increase capacity in order to deliver the quality healthcare that our residents deserve.

‘This investment is part of the wider programme to meet the needs to a growing population in modern facilities to improve the overall health outcomes of the local population.’

A recent investigation by Pulse found that GP practices were missing out on millions of pounds after a number of local authorities had failed to give GP surgeries a share of the funding they receive from housing developers, through the community infrastructure levy.

None of the thirty-five councils in England that responded to a Pulse freedom of information request had spent any money on GP practices, despite receiving £61.5m from housing developers between 2013/14 and 2016/17.

Hackney, which neighbours Tower Hamlets, had collected £6.6m through the levy since 2015/16, which the council decided would be spent on ‘things such as education’.